Viridor’s Kent plastics plant reopens after fire 

Viridor’s plastic recycling facility in Rochester, Kent, reopened on Friday (24 September), four months after a fire forced the facility to close.

Viridor confirmed that the cause of the blaze has not yet been identified however site operators think lithium ion batteries were involved.

Inside the Rochester facility (stock photo)

The four month closure of the plant saw the replacement of machinery such as optical sorters and conveys, as well as electric installations.

A Viridor spokesperson told letsrecycle.com : “The fire at Viridor’s Polymers Recycling Facility at Rochester impacted on plant operations for four months. Fire damage prompted the decision to replace some plant machinery, including optical sorters and conveyers along with some electrical installations.

“Covid-related travel restrictions on technicians based in Europe delayed installation of some machinery, however the project was delivered within a realistic timescale. Viridor also used this period to implement its routine annual site maintenance which has contributed to increased plant efficiency.

“The cause of the fire has not been identified. It is often difficult to accurately determine the cause of waste site fires, where the material in question must be shifted by fire fighters in order to extinguish the fire. However, experienced waste site operators know that lithium ion batteries remain the main cause of these fires.”

Viridor reiterated its message on the importance of responsibly disposing of batteries.

Fire

The Kent Fire and Rescue Service said that on 27 May, 10 fire engines arrived at the scene at the industrial estate on Clipper Close at 2.29am (see letsrecycle story).

Fire crews tackled the fire, on the first floor of the Viridor building, wearing breathing apparatus.

Six fire engines remained at the scene to dampen down the fire’, before handing the scene back to Viridor at 11:20 on the day of the incident, around 9 hours after it started.

There were no injuries reported following the fire.

ESA

In August, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) launched the Take Charge public battery recycling campaign, urging consumers to recycle batteries responsibly to avoid waste fires (see letsrecycle story).

A statement from the ESA said: “Unfortunately, fires at recycling and waste management facilities are an all-too-common occupational hazard affecting all businesses operating in the resources and waste management industry.

The ESA’s Take Charge campaign is to be launched later this year

“These fires are most often outside the operators’ control and are caused by items that have been improperly disposed of, such as batteries, gas canisters and chemicals.

“Ultimately, however, our industry needs the support of the public to help us eradicate the potential for fires by disposing of items responsibly. In particular, the ESA is due to launch a nation-wide communications campaign later this year (2020) encouraging consumers to recycle batteries responsibly. Since ESA member data for 2018/2019 shows that around a quarter of all waste fires were caused by lithium-ion batteries alone.”

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